Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Dr. Larry Rosenthal appears this month in place of regular columnist Dr. Christopher Pescatore.
Over the last few years, more mainstream and upscale consumers have gained a greater appreciation for the value of a truly beautiful smile. They are driven by television makeover shows, increased industry advertising, and dazzling celebrity smiles that grace many magazine covers. Given these circumstances, now is the perfect time for dentists to build a cosmetic practice. However, it’s not as simple as you might think. In my 25 years of experience, I have learned a few principles and practical marketing strategies that may help successfully transition dentists from general to more cosmetic practices while helping them avoid common pitfalls and mistakes. Here are my principles for success:
✦Adopt a stronger leadership mindset. The most important marketing tool for cosmetic dentists is the smiles we craft. To adequately showcase your work, you should actively recommend more comprehensive treatment plans designed to create the most beautiful results. Often a patient will ask for a single-tooth restoration when far more extensive treatment is required to produce a healthy occlusally balanced and attractive smile. When single-tooth treatment is indicated, you may elect to proceed, but be sure to educate patients when multiple restorations are necessary for optimal results. Patients have a greater appreciation for dentists who thoroughly explain their reasoning, especially with modern visualization techniques such as intraoral cameras, digital radiographs, and computer simulation. Patients often will accept sound advice. The key is a comprehensive, thorough examination.
✦Adapt your practice’s image to match the experiences esthetic patients receive at other high-end service providers. Most cosmetic dentistry is elective, and not covered by insurance. Accordingly, your esthetic patients are accustomed to first-class treatment, and generally are selective and demanding. So the look and feel of your office, the demeanor of you and your staff, and the quality of your products need to keep pace.
✦Continually advance your esthetic skills. No amount of marketing will offset inadequate dentistry. Patients who reap the esthetic rewards of experience and technique will provide the ongoing referrals that are the basis of a successful practice. Any aspiring cosmetic dentist should get as much hands-on training as possible, keep abreast of new technology, solicit the advice of lab technicians, and maintain continuing education to ensure his or her skills and level of expertise are always up-to-date.
Now, here are my practical marketing strategies:
✹Make a solid and specific commitment. Although you can add cosmetic procedures at a comfortable pace, you must dedicate a specific amount of time to this specific area. Start by devoting at least a half to a full day each week to esthetics. Then add time as your cosmetic business grows, bringing an esthetic overtone to the practice.
✹Mobilize your staff. Your staff’s appearance and demeanor should convey the esthetic values and professionalism that high-end patients expect. Also, have the staff tactfully ask existing patients a few questions such as:
■ Could you be happier with your smile?
■ Would you like whiter teeth?
■ Would you like to see a computer image of how you might look with veneers or a smile makeover?
If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then immediately schedule a consultation.
✹If you advertise, do it right. Advertising is expensive and takes a long-term commitment to become effective. Advertise in publications that reach high-value patients, and make sure the advertising reflects your esthetic tastes. For example, I worked with MACVENEERS by MicroDental Laboratories on a high-end, full-page color ad in Vanity Fair. The magazine’s March issue features one of my patients. MicroDental also assists with the local ad and PR efforts of their top dentists. Actively seek out this kind of support from your suppliers and partners.
✹Take advantage of opportunities for PR. Be visible and available to the local press. Donate cosmetic services to charity auctions. Leverage educational forums. Become a member of cosmetic study clubs, local dental schools, and national organizations such as the AACD.
Just as esthetic dentistry is an art, marketing the cosmetic practice is an art. Success requires the right combination of self-presentation, skill, determination, and empathy for the esthetically minded patient. All of this is directed toward a well-rounded, focused marketing program to attract the right kind of clientele. Following the principles and strategies offered will help you build a thriving cosmetic practice. Be proactive, not reactive!
Dr. Larry Rosenthal is a world-renowned cosmetic dentist whose Manhattan-based practice is the choice of celebrities and VIPs. He is founder and director of the Larry Rosenthal Institute for Aesthetic Dentistry at the NYU College of Dentistry.Visit his Web site at www.rosenthalgrp.com, and his hands-on teaching institution, Aesthetic Advantage, at www.rosenthalinstitue.com.